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I was recently with a friend of mine (whom I will leave nameless for obvious reasons) who said the reason his city is in such a mess is because "the pulpits are polluted!"
When he said this, I immediately began to think and pray about the implications and reasons for this strong statement. Upon reflection, I found his statement to be true based on conversations I have had with numerous leaders across the globe.
The following are 10 reasons there is pollution in some pulpits today:
1. The pastor has an unholy union with politicians. In Scripture, we have numerous examples of how religious leaders compromised their faith and obedience to God for the sake of political favor and access. For example, in Amos 7:12,13, Amaziah, the priest, commanded the prophet Amos to stop prophesying at Bethel because it was the king's sanctuary and a temple of the kingdom; In 1 Kings 22, we see how all the prophets only prophesied what King Ahab wanted to hear with the exception of Micaiah the prophet. In the New Testament, all the chief priests conspired to put Jesus to death when they said they had no king but Caesar, thus aligning themselves with the Roman emperor over the Lord of the universe (John 19:15). I have observed many religious leaders compromising their faith by supporting political candidates and platforms so they could have access to power and money. This, almost more than any other point, is the reason for schisms, posturing and a lack of true spiritual power in the pulpit today.
2. The pastor puts the branding of their name before the health of their local church. Some spiritual leaders merely use their church as a platform to enhance their own name. They put all of their effort into elevating their name without care or concern for the health of the congregation. When a spiritual leader is more concerned with their own brand than the spiritual condition of their church, it pollutes the pulpit.
3. The pastor is not relationally accountable to anyone. Whenever a spiritual leader has no real accountability, they are more vulnerable to temptation. When a leader has no oversight, he is a lone ranger and can easily go off track. This is another reason for pollution in the pulpit today.
4. The lead pastor is surrounded by yes-men. All lead pastors need to have strong leaders around them with the capacity to help them think through complex issues. When they lack this, it creates a vacuum of creativity and problem-solving and opens the door to huge mistakes. Furthermore, when a leader only has yes-men around him, there is nobody to push back against unethical practices that open a door to various calamities. I have learned, the stronger and more secure a leader is, the more he will surround himself with other strong leaders in the inner circle so iron can sharpen iron. A lack of strong leaders around a lead pastor causes much pollution in the pulpit today.
5. The lead pastor isolates himself. One of the biggest reasons for pulpit pollution today is when a spiritual leader lacks intimate relationships with leadership peers. This isolation causes them to deal with external pressures by themselves, which can result in depression, discouragement and hopelessness.
6. There are no sexual boundaries. One of the most common reasons spiritual leaders fall into sexual sin is because they counsel members of the opposite sex. In my opinion, as a general rule, men should counsel men and women should counsel women. When this is not possible, then a male leader should either have his spouse or another mature spiritual female leader with him when he meets with a woman. Lacking these boundaries can result in pollution in the pulpit today.
7. There are no financial boundaries. I know churches where not even the trustees know what is going on financially. Only the lead pastor has total access to the financial records. In some instances, the pastor pays all the bills; I guess because he doesn't trust anyone else to do the job. These are dangerous practices, because it opens up a door for the lead pastor to be tempted to "cook the books" and steal tithes and offerings. It can also open up the door to scandalous accusations regarding financial misappropriation. If at all possible, if the pastor insists on being a signer of checks, two signers should be required. (To my recollection, I have not signed a church check in more than two decades, and when I did, another signature was also required.) Also, the trustees should get regular weekly reports, and the CPA should also audit the books on a regular basis and give an annual report. Without the proper financial boundaries, the pulpit can easily be polluted today.
8. Ministry is driven by ego. When the primary motivation of the lead pastor is to produce results to satisfy their ego, trouble is not far away. When spiritual leaders are driven by ambition instead of being led by the Holy Spirit, they tend to embark on huge projects presumptuously. The result is that they eventually experience unnecessary financial hardship because God only gives provision for the vision He gives. Ministry ego is one of the most common reasons for pollution in the pulpit today.
9. The Bible is not the primary source for preaching. When a spiritual leader rarely cracks open the Bible and only fills themselves with newspapers and current events, their preaching will lack the power and purity of the Word. Some lead pastors act more like social activists than shepherds because their preaching is politically and economically informed more than biblically informed. This is another reason for pollution in the pulpit today.
10. The lead pastor is not walking with God. Last and not least, perhaps the most important reason there is pollution in the pulpit today is that the lead pastor lacks a robust devotional life. Unless a spiritual leader is regularly seeking God and devouring His Word, he will begin to act and think like the world instead of reflecting the lifestyle of the Word.
In conclusion, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are all susceptible to falling into sin and polluting our pulpits, families and environment. May the Lord surround us with godly friends and overseers with integrity; and may He grant us an intense hunger to seek Him now more than ever before. Finally, may we have great power in the pulpits to release the glory of God over congregations, cities and nations.
Joseph Mattera is an internationally known author, futurist, interpreter of culture and activist/theologian whose mission is to influence leaders who influence nations. He founded Resurrection Church of New York in 1985, out of which many leaders were sent out into the church and marketplace. He is the author of seven books, including four theological books on the kingdom of God, and has a blog on Charismanews.com called "The Pulse."
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